Community and Economic Development



Community and Economic Development - Affordable Housing

On Thursday October 1st United Way of Collier County hosted a forum for community leaders and local non-profit representatives at the Naples Hilton to discuss the topic of Workforce Housing. Guest speaker David A. Jackson,  Community and Economic Development Advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, brought together a team of specialists from across the country to speak about the challenges communities face in providing affordable housing for their workforces and the innovative solutions other communities around the country have implemented to address these challenges.

Kim Grant, Collier County’s Director of Community and Human Services, presented on current issues specific to Collier residents. Nationally, the standard for affordable housing states that a single individual or family should be spending less than 30% of their annual income on housing costs in order for it to be classified as affordable, if they are spending more, it is a burdensome cost of living. If you are a renter this housing cost includes your rent and utilities, while for home owners this includes your mortgage, taxes, and utilities. How do you compare? Chances are this information may hit closer to home than most may realize. Grant’s data showed that 43% of Collier County residents are spending more than 30% each year.

Why is this? Well, data showed that the area’s median household income has remained constant since 2001. However the median housing price was $166,000 in 2001, while in 2015, 14 years later, it has increased to $300,000. Lars Gilberts, lead for United Way’s ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Project, presented findings from The ALICE Report that shed light on the issue. Over half the jobs in Collier County pay less than $14.61 per hour / $30,400 annually. A thirty year fixed rate mortgage on a $300,000 home would incur mortgage payments of $1,416 a month ( that is almost 56% of the income of an individual making $30,400 not including the cost of taxes and utilities). These numbers prove to be a real concern across the county.

Attendees from businesses within the county discussed the issues with affordable housing their own organizations were facing, attributing high employee turnover rates and lowered success in recruiting qualified candidates to the high cost of living in our community. Many shared examples of what they are currently doing to help alleviate some of the hardship befalling their employees.

Renee Thigpen, Associate Chief Human Resources Officer at Naples Community Hospital expressed the difficulty they were having attracting new employees to the area. While contract nursing positions offer competitive salaries, the increased cost of housing has become a deterrent in their efforts to recruit new candidates to the area often resulting in offers being declined. NCH has begun to provide housing assistance to help offset this cost and have people available to work with prospective employees to make the transition into the area easier.

Robert Hickey, Senior Research Associate at the Center for Housing Policy/National Housing Conference gave insight on the tools currently being utilized to work towards broadening housing affordability. Some key points of his presentation included:

  • Allowing mixed housing – such as apartments/condos, manufactured homes, cottage housing, and micro homes. This widens the diversity in housing markets, allowing residents to have more affordable alternative options when looking for housing. Manufactured housing alone saves $125,000 on average per unit. These savings can help reduce the overall cost of the home to lessen the gap of what residents can afford.

  • Preserve housing assets – we can offer incentives to extend affordability of low-cost (non-subsidized) properties, and repair assistance programs which would allow us to preserve at-risk subsidized housing.

  • Reduce the cost of building and renovating – for example, eliminate the need for targeted parking spaces, where on average when requiring one parking space per unit increases the cost of development by 12.5% and two spaces per units bring it up to 25%. Fee deferrals and waivers, streamlining permitting and approvals.

  • Implementing Community Land Trusts – a CLT acquires land and legally separates ownership of the buildings (homes) from ownership of the land.  Homebuyers in CLT programs purchase only the house and enter into a long term lease agreement with the CLT for the land.  Removing the cost of the land from the transaction makes the home more affordable. This creates permanently affordable housing units and allows only income qualified buyers to take advantage of them. Largest example is in Burlington, VT where they lease land to around 500 homes.

While this issue cannot be solved in one day, the forum was a large step forward in properly addressing the need for affordable workforce housing. The event ended with focus groups being established which included a wide variety of local businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies committed to working together and to find solutions.

If interested in reading our speakers’ presentations please click here.

By: Spencer Smith